CHICAGO - House Speaker Mike Madigan - who also serves as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party - is closely tied to at least 400 current and retired state workers, the Chicago Tribune found in an exhaustive investigation. They say their effort was to find how far and deep Madigan's political army spreads. The investigation:
"...sought to do just that, documenting employees at every level of state and local government who work elections for Madigan, donate regularly to his campaign funds, register voters for him or circulate candidate petitions on his behalf.
By that conservative measure, the newspaper found more than 400 current or retired government employees with strong political ties to Madigan. It also found repeated instances where Madigan took personal action to get them jobs, promotions or raises, just as he did for the Metra employee.
From the ranks of those workers Madigan has built the most potent ground game in Illinois politics, which he uses to influence elections in every corner of the state, from suburban mayor to governor, from county board to Congress."
The Tribune interviewed Scott Fawell - George Ryan's chief of staff - who said he often got jobs for Madigan's picks:
A top aide to disgraced former Gov. George Ryan said Madigan routinely called to get jobs for favored political workers. Scott Fawell — who was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison for conspiring with Ryan to use public resources for political gain — said he helped Madigan secure his supporters dozens of jobs over a decade while he served in various top posts under Ryan.
"He'd come down or call periodically, we'd talk a little Sox baseball because we're both huge fans, maybe we'd talk a little politics, and eventually he'd say, 'Hey, I've got a guy I'd like you to look at for a job,'" Fawell told the Tribune.
Former federal prosectuor Patrick Collins commented on Madigan's patronage army system:
"One of the most insidious effects of Illinois-style patronage comes into play if people on the receiving end don't accede to the 'request' the governmental power broker is making on behalf of his patronage soldier," said former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, who won convictions of top officials in the Daley administration during a 2005-2006 investigation of illegal political hiring at City Hall.
"That is where there can be a governmental price to pay for failing to play the game — a form of retribution," Collins said. "That is the underbelly of patronage."
In the wake of the corruption case that sent ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison, an ethics commission appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn and led by Collins identified patronage as a major source of malfeasance and mistrust in government. But many of the panel's recommendations to attack patronage and provide more government oversight were ignored by the Madigan-dominated General Assembly.
"Making people care is one of the biggest problems with all of this stuff," Collins said. "Nothing is ever going to change until people understand the costs and harm of this and then care enough to put a stake in the ground."
Read the rest of the findings HERE.